Dubai:  Emirates plans to hire more than 700 pilots over the next 18 months to support new routes, new aircraft and increased frequencies.

Today, the airline's recruitment team will be seeking First Officers in Madrid, one of six new destinations to be announced by the airline this year.

After Madrid, recruitment specialists move to Barcelona and then across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Americas.

Captain Alan Stealey, Emirates divisional senior vice-president for flight operations, said: "We have embarked on a major drive to recruit cockpit crew to support the airline's growth at a time when much of the industry is cutting back."

"With our ninth A380 just arrived and a 10th A380 being handed over next week, that's two giant aircraft to staff in the space of a fortnight alone. By the end of this year, we will have recruited more than 250 pilots," he said.

"Next year, we're looking to double that figure and recruit 500."

Emirates has a 147-strong fleet with a further six aircraft due to arrive this year. A total of 144 planes worth Dh176 billion ($48 billion) are on order.

New routes this year include Tokyo, which launched March 28 and Amsterdam, which started May 1. Services to Prague and Baghdad begin on July 1, Madrid begins August 1 and flights to Dakar operate from September 1.

A twice weekly summer service has also been announced for Al Madinah Al Munawarrah — from July 2 to September 24.

Compared to June 2009, the airline's weekly flight departures from Dubai have jumped from 1,004 to 1,118 — supporting new routes and a raft of extra frequencies in Europe, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Asia and Australasia.

Rick Helliwell, Emirates vice-president for recruitment, said: "A career as an Emirates pilot offers an opportunity to fly aircraft in one of the world's most modern fleets throughout an ever broadening route network. Due to the massive expansion plans for the airline, pilots at Emirates have the opportunity to progress from First Officer to the Captain's seat quickly, based on industry norms."